Let God Out of Church

We’ve locked God up in church and locked our brains out. That way, we can do whatever we like during the week and only surrender our freedom on Saturday. That is why it gets harder to thank God when life gets better – why thank somebody who stayed locked up in church and morning worship while I slaved away all week?

Of course, we are slack in doing church stuff Continue reading

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Abe

It is incredible that God figured he couldn’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah without telling Abraham first. In fact, He let the two angels go into the city to carry out an independent investigation while He strolled with Abraham and bargained with Him. This is incredible, not only because the Almighty condescended to eat, stroll and discuss His plans with humanity, but because God was willing Continue reading

All Fired Up!

The beginning of the Book of Acts shows the fulfilment of the promise of Baptism of the Spirit when a prayer meeting was upgraded to an outpouring of the Spirit. A motley crew of rugged fisherman, a Zealot, a tax collector and many others were faced with an impossible task – spreading the gospel to the entire world. How were they to do that when even among the Jews, so many barriers existed? They barely even spoke the same language! Enter the Holy Spirit. He is the One that would bring people into the church:

For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NET emphasis supplied)

And again:

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
(Ephesians 1:13-14 The Message emphasis supplied)

The language barrier was erected by God at Babel (Genesis 11) in order to put a damper on the DIY religion (trust in myself instead of God) that was developing a centre at that site. At Pentecost, however, God reversed that as a living illustration of the unity that He wanted His people to have. Far from a destructive fire, the Holy Spirit’s appearance as a flames was meant to represent the Presence of God (descriptions of God’s presence almost always include fire), a Presence that would fuse different people of various backgrounds, inclination and baggage into the smooth operating Body of Christ.

Humans struggle with change so the process was gradual. At first, the barrier amongst the Jews was demolished. On that day, Peter addressed Jews from all over the Roman Empire and three thousand joined the body. Talk about exponential growth! The small movement began to grow daily despite the efforts of the authorities to squash it. Those poor religious leaders thought they’d get rid of Jesus but suddenly, hundreds were proclaiming Him, even healing and teaching in the Temples courts itself!

The Body of Christ was not be exclusively Jewish, though, so Peter found himself preaching not only a Gentile but a Roman centurion. Philip baptised not a Gentile eunuch; a double felony by Jewish standards and regulations. The Holy Spirit was on fire but this was only the beginning. Even those with unorthodox theology (they only knew John’s baptism) were included in this breaking down of barriers. The Holy Spirit took a former prodigy of exclusive religion, a Pharisee named Saul and directed him to extend the invitation to the Gentiles.

The Holy Spirit is a facilitator but He is no shortcut. Sin isn’t a software bugging needing a patch, it is a virus that corrupts the operating system so bad that a virus cleaning and system reinstallation are required. Sin is never more dangerous than when it disguises itself as righteousness but presenting itself in the form of religious bigotry. Strife entered the church when Jews found themselves inundated by Gentiles who had precious little time to waste on painful practices like circumcision and ceremonial cleansing. The Holy Spirit didn’t bulldoze His unifying agenda but worked calmly on hearts in the contentious Jerusalem Conference, bringing church members to consensus without even a whiff of a proof text.

Personal differences didn’t magically disappear either such as the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas on the John Mark debacle. Although they did make up, they never worked together again. Being filled with the Spirit was and is no exemption from being human but He guides us to reconciliation with God and each other.

The baptism of the spirit will do for you, what a phone booth did for Clark Kent, it will change you into a different being. (Rod Parsley)

The book of Acts is incomplete. You have a chapter to write as well. Will you choose to go it alone with a DIY religion or will you accept to get fired up for the Kingdom?

Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you. (Corrie Ten Boom )

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: michaelmueller410 Happy New Year! via photopin (license)

When God Smiles At Your Anger

When asked to picture a holy person, what image do you paint in your mind? Is it a stern man in black clothes, holding a well-worn Bible in one hand and pointing to heaven with the other? Is it a rotund motherly figure with fiery disapproval aimed at young people daring to share a laugh in this sinful world? Perhaps your mind’s brush strokes, tired of our tendency to tie holiness to “long faces and black clothes”, reveal a sanguine lady oozing the joy of life or a smiling preacher serenading his enraptured listeners with the most encouraging words ever preached. Possibly, you have some knowledge of life’s up and downs, so you just might imagine a calm face in the middle of great tribulation, barely whispering Jeremiah 29:11. Few would imagine a diseased man sitting in ash, railing against God and yearning for death. Keep on reading!

Does God’s Whisper Make You Jump?

A man who has been accused of stealing a goat, so the proverb goes, does not serve goat meat to his guests. Elijah had to learn this the hard way. Zealous for God’s honour, Elijah thought God withholding the rain and dew would show that Baal was no King of Rain and Dew. Surely the Israelites, realizing that Baal was impotent in the face of Yahweh, would return to the God they had forsaken so shamelessly. How disappointed he was to find that after 3 dry years interjected by a day of nonstop miracles, the nation’s leadership was increasingly eager to snuff out the flickering light of truth.

Mount Horeb was the place where Moses had encountered God in the ‘Burning Bush’. A short while later, it was the site on which God had descended and forged the Israelite nation with peals of thunder and smoking flame. This was the place Elijah had fled to wait for God’s voice. Dejected and lonely he waited. Like the Israelites, he had been fed miraculously by God on his way there. After earthquake, wind and fire (all of which had occurred when God had appeared to Israel) Elijah heard the voice of God in a still small voice.

God had brought Elijah to the scene of a most spectacular theophany to teach him that God would not win the war against Satan by displays of power. Having been accused of having too much power, God could certainly not try to win by showing off His power. Had not the Israelites danced before a golden calf six weeks before they’d piously promised to follow Jehovah? God’s laser light shows can only grab attention; they do not effect lasting change. Something more is needed if God is to change sinners… a still small voice.

Salvation is to be found in a conversation with God. It is not to be sought in the extraordinary interventions that God makes in our lives (wonderful though they may be), rather, salvation is to be sought in a calm conversation with God. It is here in which God’s immense wisdom is shown, for without gimmicks he simply talks a wayward sinner into a humble child.

What was it that God whispered into the Elijah’s ear? Strategy. God’s capability is seen in His unassuming calm control over the whole world. Elijah could only see Israel through his binoculars yet God was looking at countries around Israel (even their enemies). Yet God didn’t hog the vision; he invited Elijah to take part. So it is, even in our day, that we seek to fold God into the boxes we’ve prepared for Him when he would rather invite us to participate in his expansive work.

It is interesting to note that when Elijah, understanding the character of God, could jump at the whisper of God and take part in God’s larger work, he was ready for translation to heaven. Could it be that perfection for us is to be found in the willingness to jump at the mere sound of God’s whisper? The ability to move forward without being prompted by the proverbial carrot and stick? I think so.

The longing however, for One who would not turn and flee in the face of danger is still there. Could there be One who would stand fearlessly yet humbly (unlike Elijah) teaching us to listen to the still small voice instead of hoping for consuming fire? Time would tell. The controversy would continue.

When God’s best isn’t good enough

What do you do when your best isn’t good enough? Do you start over? Do you give up? Well in this week’s lesson, God’s best just wasn’t good enough.

Saul was told that God had found a better king but who did He choose? David. A teenager lugging a severed head around the camp. A man who would go on to sleep with his friend’s wife among other dastardly deeds. Yet in spite of all this, God famously called him ‘a man after my own heart’. How could God reject a king whose only crimes were sacrificing (at the point of desperation) when he was meant to wait for Samuel and keeping a few animals alive? How could reject Saul and opt for a perfidious murderer?

David was God’s best but he wasn’t good enough… or so it seems! A closer look at David and Goliath’s face off reveals not a tale of overcoming great odds but a tale of a boy passionate about God and country while a king cowered in fear in his tent. Saul failed when a heathen challenged his God but David stepped up to the plate. His methods were gory to say the least but within what he knew, David could not but stand up for God. That is precisely what God was looking for: someone who could look through sin’s hazy fog and see a God worth standing up for.

As spectacular as his fall before Bathsheba’s bathing form was, David’s confession as recorded in Psalm 51 shines ever brighter. In this confession, David offers no excuse for his failure. No mention of bathing women is ever heard throughout the hymn. Unlike Saul, David did not try to bribe God with sacrifices in place of obedience. He did not reduce God to a transaction but yearned for restoration. Unlike Adam, who blamed his wife and God (by extension), David realized that sin is not an accounting discrepancy to be balanced by blood but an inner loss of communion with God. He felt the chasm between him and God and longed for reconciliation. After reading Psalm 51, it is clear that David loves God for who He is and not for what he can give.

Yet despite David’s breathtaking comebacks, a longing fills my soul. A longing for One who will not fail. One who will never misrepresent God by failing when he is at the pinnacle of his life. This is the same King of Peace promised to David by God. This One will be God’s true best and He will be good enough!